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Gary Sinise will wave green flag to start Daytona 500

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Gary Sinise, actor, humanitarian and founder of the Gary Sinise Foundation, will wave the green flag as the honorary starter for the 56th annual Daytona 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 23, track officials announced Monday.

“Gary Sinise is not only a respected and accomplished actor, but a compassionate advocate for our servicemen and women and does a tremendous amount of work for the American troops,” Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood III said. “We are excited to have him kick off ‘The Great American Race’ by waving the green flag for the Daytona 500.”

“It’s an honor to be selected as Honorary Starter at this year’s Daytona 500 on behalf of the Gary Sinise Foundation. The race is a celebrated tradition and an important occasion to raise awareness and support for the men and women who serve our country”, said Sinise.

The Daytona 500 will also feature reigning Academy of Country Music Entertainer of the Year Luke Bryan, who will entertain the crowd during the DAYTONA 500 Budweiser Pre-Race Show.

"We’re thrilled to have a talented artist such as Luke Bryan perform prior to the start of the Daytona 500," Chitwood said in a news release. "We’re expecting Luke to put on an exhilarating show that will energize our race fans as we kick off the new NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season."

The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, known worldwide for their precision aerobatics, will return to Daytona International Speedway to perform the flyover for the 56th annual DAYTONA 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season opener, the track announced.

This will make the fourth consecutive year the flying team, officially known as the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, will perform the flyover for “The Great American Race.” For the 2013 DAYTONA 500, the Thunderbirds were unable to fly their signature "Delta" formation flyover due to cloud ceilings below mandatory minimums.

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